Microsoft Tried And Failed To Make The Future Happen Now

Surface Pro

Photo: Robert Libetti/ Business Insider

Most of the reviews for Microsoft’s new tablet, the Surface Pro, weren’t very good. The common complaint was that Microsoft made far too many compromises in a device that wants to be a replacement for both your tablet and regular laptop.

Unfortunately, those compromises don’t make the Surface Pro a good laptop or a good tablet. 

Here are some of the key drawbacks:

  • You only get about four hours of battery life.
  • It’s thicker and heavier than most tablets, including the original Surface, so it’s not comfortable to use for extended periods of time.
  • You need to spend an extra $120 on a keyboard cover if you want to unlock the Surface Pro’s full array of features. (You wouldn’t buy a laptop without a keyboard, would you?)
  • It has a poor selection of tablet-optimised apps.

So why did Microsoft make all those compromises in the Surface Pro?   To be clear, I think Microsoft is on to something here, but it got way too head of itself. The future of computing is in touch. Everyone from Apple to Google to Amazon realises that. When I spoke with one of the new Windows bosses, Tami Reller, the other week, she called Windows 8 computers “a new class of PC.”   I think Reller is right, but the problem is Microsoft is trying too hard to bring us the future today, and technology hasn’t caught up with an ambitious product like the Surface Pro. The Surface Pro had the potential to be as disruptive to desktop computing as the iPhone was to mobile phones, but in order to get it out the door within a reasonable period of time following the Windows 8 launch last fall, Microsoft had to fudge key features that people really care about such as battery life.   Even Microsoft’s Surface boss, Panos Panay, admitted his team had to make some sacrifices to get the Pro out the door.   The good news is Microsoft and its third-party hardware partners aren’t giving up. I’ve seen a slew of Windows 8 devices that are coming out soon, and they come in just about every configuration imaginable. A lot of them provide similar benefits as the Surface Pro, but are lighter, thinner, and cost a lot less. Keep your eye out.   Ideally, Microsoft would’ve waited until the Surface Pro and Windows 8 were perfect before launching, but it couldn’t afford to. Apple and Google have been eating Microsoft’s lunch in the mobile space, and Microsoft was forced to act quickly and ambitiously.    I have no doubt the Surface line will begin to improve over time, and I’m sure Microsoft will have fixed many of the common complaints when the Surface Pro 2 (or whatever they end up calling it) launches.   For now, we only have a flawed taste of what the future will be like.

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